Madeline Kara Neumann died unnecessarily a couple years ago because her parents prayed for her recovery from ketoacidosis instead of taking her to a doctor. The whole tragedy shed light on the exemptions given to religious parents under Wisconsin law.
As it now stands, her parents have to spend a month in jail every year for six years.
Under current Wisconsin law, parents can’t be found guilty of child abuse if they choose spiritual treatment rather than medicine or surgery.
Now, that could finally change:
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge parents who refuse medical help for their children on religious grounds with child abuse.
Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) introduced a bill that “would eliminate a provision in state law allowing parents to withhold medical treatment if they believe that prayer is sufficient to heal their children.”
Yesterday, an informational hearing on the bill took place in the Committee on Children and Families.
It may have taken a tragedy to get lawmakers to act, but at least something positive can now come from all this.
[Berceau] tells the Assembly Children and Families Committee children shouldn’t have to die for their parents’ beliefs. Joe Farkas, legislative liaison for Christian Science churches in Wisconsin, counters the bill is vague and raises questions about whether parents can teach their children religious values.
There’s another bill sponsored by State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) also going through the Wisconsin senate that’s similar to this one, except for a notable difference:
While Taylor’s bill would remove the religious exemption from child abuse and neglect laws, it adds the exemption to the medical practices section of the criminal code, a more expansive section of the criminal code.
State prosecutors, health care professionals and child care advocates, among others, fear this new exemption would further harm children by extending the religious exemption to an even broader category of crimes, including homicide, abuse, recklessly endangering the safety of a child and criminal neglect.
I’m hoping it’s Berceau’s bill that goes into effect.
In both cases, though, it’s very clear that the religious exemptions for child abuse and neglect need to end. Wisconsin lawmakers should not hesitate in voting for Berceau’s bill.
(Thanks to Glenn for the link)